Norwich Playhouse

Venue details

Norwich Playhouse is a superb venue in the heart of the city and the most modern performance space of its size in East Anglia. The Playhouse opened 13 years ago, created from a riverside maltings dating from about 160 years earlier. In the interim, the building had been the Crown Public House, the head office of the Norwich Mercury Newspaper, the depot for Ruymps builders’ merchants, the warehouse of a motor-cycle dealer and a Greek restaurant!

In all, from launch to opening, the project of creating the theatre with its open end-stage took six years. It was undertaken by Henry Burke, the founder, and the consultant Iain Macintosh of Theatre Projects. They worked with a team of experts headed by local architects Lambert Scott and Innes.

The cost was £2,500,000, of which an astonishing 80% was raised from private individuals and small businesses. Grants of £400,000 from the Arts Council Lottery Fund and £100,000 from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts made up the balance.
When the Playhouse opened in December 1995 the national press called it “warm… welcoming… a cause for celebration… a great new space…” It is an excellent building with pleasant front of house facilities and good disabled access. Excellent acoustics, sightlines and legroom all create a friendly relationship between audience and performers.

January 2000 saw the start of a new life as a receiving house and exciting spring and autumn seasons, now numbering 22 and attracting nationally recognised artistes in comedy, music, jazz, dance and drama. Tickets are reasonably priced and the venue is popular.

The Playhouse is also for hire. It offers a theatre seating 300, completely staffed, a well stocked lighting rig and theatre PA, bare walls or black drapes as desired on the surprisingly large stage. There are good backstage facilities for professional shows and community use. Corporate functions and conferences are served excellently.

The Playhouse Bar (described in the local press as having the splendid intimacy of a down-town New York cafe) leads out onto a leafy riverside terrace and garden. Run by the Last Wine Bar, it offers a full refreshment service and tasty buffet meals for corporate hospitality. The Playroom offers a pleasant extension to the bar and is an excellent meeting space.

Since November 2003, the Playhouse has been in a merged management agreement with the Theatre Royal, to the great satisfaction of both establishments. The big brother looks after the little sister, who flourishes. Branding and programming are kept separate but all employed at the Playhouse are now Theatre Royal employees and the Playhouse Board no longer has day to day responsibility for the Playhouse, as that now lies with the Theatre Royal Trustees.

For more information on Norwich Playhouse please contact: Sam Bain on 01603 612 580 or